The soothing falsetto of Sampha may be familiar. The British musician has featured on records for Kanye West, Drake, Beyoncé, Solange and Frank Ocean to name a handful, while also finding time to release two EP’s – Sundanza in 2010 and Dual in 2013. Now, four years after any solo music from the artist, Sampha has delivered his debut album Process.
Throughout the short career of Sampha, he has had to deal with much more than others will. On ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’, he borrows from the experiences of leaving behind his physically disabled brother and frail mother to pursue his gradually rising career. This major event in Sampha’s life is one that is regularly touched on in the lyrics on Process.
Although, listeners come to realise that he had to put his career on hold to care for his ill mother, who eventually passed away from cancer in 2015. In this time caring for his mother, it was the piano that eased him through the pain and massively influenced the style of Process.
The RnB/electronic-influenced album was produced by Sampha and Rodiadh McDonald, who has previously produced for The xx, Adele and Låpsley among others. McDonald’s influence on Process is recognisable on the first play of the album, as it sounds starkly familiar – a very British feel. But, with the help of Sampha’s smooth vocals, Process remains unique from other records featuring McDonald’s production.
Process is an album that could suit anyone’s musical palette. From the stripped back ballad ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’, a hauntingly Bibio-inspired acoustic setting of ‘Plastic 100ºC’, the drum heavy beat on ‘Blood on Me’ and to the upbeat electronic track ‘Under’; it is a rapidly evolving record.
However, as Process steadily develops, there is one aspect that does not change – the isolation of Sampha’s warm voice above the gentle production. Even on the catchy ‘Blood on Me’, Sampha’s voice overcomes the beat. It is a far different story on Process in comparison to Sampha’s past features that have put him in the spotlight, as his voice was used to add a gentle sprinkle of brilliance rather to be the main attribute of the song.
Process pushes Sampha to the front of a flood of new RnB musicians pushing their case to be the next big thing in music. Not only is Process a great record in RnB, it may just be the next Mercury Prize winning record, and if it isn’t the winner, it is going to take something very special to outreach it.